Chickens coming home to roost

March 8, 2011

If only we could encourage more Georgians to sinfully waste their money during economic hard times by participating in this evil institution called the Georgia Lottery!

As you may have read or heard about (as reported here and here), the state of Georgia is facing revenue shortfalls of something like $300 million a year from the Georgia Lottery, which funds the HOPE scholarship. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to qualify for an ever-shrinking scholarship payout. Parents and students are outraged—and understandably so.

Still, I don’t feel much sympathy. If fewer people are playing the lottery—which is evil and shouldn’t exist in the first place—how is that not a good thing?

The lottery is nothing more than a tax paid by people who can least afford it. It exploits people’s ignorance. If you buy a lottery ticket, I can say with certainty that you will not win the lottery. And someone will say, “Yes, but someone wins.” To which I say, “Yes, but it won’t be you.” The statistics are clear. If you want to gamble—which of course you shouldn’t do—learn to play blackjack and go to Vegas. You’ll still lose more than you’ll win, but your odds are a lot better.

Defenders of the lottery might argue that if the poor want to pay a “voluntary” tax, then that’s their problem. After all, no one holds a gun to their heads and makes them buy a ticket. But if a government implements a policy knowing in advance that the outcome will be the same, is it really so different?

I’m not arguing the merits of the HOPE scholarship. But if it has merit such that Georgians want to continue offering it to qualified students, then let’s kill the lottery and find another way to pay for it. The HOPE should not depend for it survival on harming people—as it currently does.

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